PFA chief against Twitter ban

Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton has brought the matter into the

spotlight this week after Newcastle offered him on a free transfer

in the wake of his continue criticism of the club on the social

networking site. Newcastle have reportedly issued legal letters to

players, stating they will potentially be in breach of their

contracts if they use sites such as Twitter. Media and defamation

specialist Andrew Terry of international law firm Eversheds

believes Newcastle have made a sensible move. “This policy

recognises the reality that disclosures in social media can cause

just as much reputational damage as a front-page headline,” he

said. “The added risk is that Twitter statements are very often

sent in the heat of the moment and regretted shortly afterwards.

“So this is a sensible precaution but the real difficulty will be

making sure that everyone has the same understanding of what is

covered by ‘club affairs’ and what isn’t.” However, Professional

Footballers’ Association chief executive Gordon Taylor believes it

is vital for the football world to get its “head around” Twitter.

Taylor does not believe a club-wide ban is the way forward and has

called for the relevant bodies to try to embrace the site. “Every

person has got the right to speak in public so long as it is their

own point of view and it does not reflect badly on their employers,

the game or other personalities in the game,” he said. “If it is

defamatory then it can then be used against that person in a legal

manner for compensation and so this is an issue that we really need

to get our heads around and try to get a criteria that is

comfortable for everyone. “It is not necessarily good enough to

say: ‘no, we don’t have it at all’. “I think in the short term a

number of clubs have done that rather than risk perhaps one of

their young players or even a senior player – or an aggrieved

player – coming out with stuff that is not conducive to team spirit

or good relationships at the club.” Taylor, who played as a winger

in the 1960s and 1970 for the likes of Bolton, Birmingham and

Blackburn, admits there are pitfalls of using Twitter but believes

it can be an important medium between players and fans. “It is not

an easy thing but used in the right way it can help with

relationships between players and supporters,” he added. “Used in

the wrong way it can also cause problems at the clubs, to

team-mates and other professionals in the game. “As with most

things, it is about everything on its merit and it is a question of

proportionality.”